Food for Thought On Exercise and Weight Loss

img_7471.jpg By Naomi Kolb

While the recent sunny days have given us a tentative promise of the beautiful seasons to come, some not-so-beautiful conversations about our bodies have also begun taking place. There’s a certain rhetoric around “shedding the layers of fat” that we gained during the winter, or hitting the gym to get “bikini body ready” that seems to get more prevalent as we draw tantalizingly closer to spring break. I recently started working out more and was floored when someone asked me how much weight I was trying to lose. The answer? None. There have certainly been times in my life before this that I was actively trying to lose weight, but my relationships with food, exercise, and my very sense of self were deeply fractured during those times.

It was jarring to again be exposed to the idea that working out is often synonymous with losing weight, or that losing weight prior to being able to don a swimsuit during spring break is some sort of inherent expectation. So why am I working out then, if not to lose weight? For one, I love the way that yoga makes my body feel and how strong I feel while doing it. For another, I want to be able to go camping and hiking with my friends without getting too fatigued. Lastly, I’m doing it just because I’m finally able to try to develop a healthy relationship with exercise.

My desire to work out is no longer fueled by the hatred, self-loathing, and internalized fatphobia of my past. Rather, it’s become a new and exciting way for me to connect with myself, my friends, and the world around me. So let’s stop associating working out with losing weight, and let’s start looking forward to a spring break hopefully full of radical love and acceptance for our bodies no matter where they’re at. 

Weighing in on PSU

Kari Anne McDonald works the runway at PSU's first Love Your Body Fashion Extravaganza. In background, emcee Poison Waters engages the audience.

This past Thursday in the Smith Ballroom, PSU’s Love Your Body Fashion Extravaganza featured a fashion show with models who definitely were outside of the size zero seen on most runways. The focus of the fashion show was to highlight loving your body no matter what size or shape it happens to be. By deciding to be a part of this show, I had to face my own inner insecurities between weight and health.

It seems to be a focus of media attention that the United States is becoming bigger around the waistline. In Portland, a city that tends to be very health conscious and that also is known for having a strong foodie culture, this can be a source of conflict. College is certainly a time when students are faced with the fears about the “freshman fifteen” weight gain, and how to transition from a system of mandatory physical activity in schools to self-motivated physical activity.

One consequence of this transition may be adding extra pounds. Fat acceptance can certainly be a loaded subject for many individuals. One question that frequently arises is, “How can we promote health while still accepting those who are overweight?” Somewhere in all of the haze of health information and media messages there must be a balance between health and weight.

If anything, this recent Love Your Body Fashion Extravaganza shows the PSU campus that you do not have to be traditionally skinny in order to be sexy or feel good about your body. For myself, I have had to let go of my fears about being “too fat” and instead focus on getting back to my love of running. I may still have those few extra pounds, but in this way, I feel healthy.

Weigh in with your own thoughts: What do you do to accept your body and stay healthy, while possibly still keeping on those extra pounds? Do you think that people can still be healthy while being overweight?